Skip to main content

Misfit – wood and amber and a new patchouli

Misfit, a gorgeous amber-woody unisex EdP from indie fragrance house Arquiste, has been in heavy rotation around my place for the last few months.  But any discussion about this EdP must begin with patchouli – that bushy, green herb with small pink flowers native to Indonesia and Malaysia but now grows throughout China, India, and the Philippines.

Now, I know that some people are turned off by the hippie, head shop aspect of patchouli, but maybe if you stick with me until the end of this post, things might change. Let's begin.

Patchouli's pungent, earthy, woody signature scent has had many uses – in medicine, in incense and as an insect repellent. Chinese silk traders in the 18th century packed their precious cloths with dried patchouli leaves to keep moths away. Later, it was used to scent linen from India. Over time, patchouli became a symbol of luxury and wealth among the European bourgeoisie.

But fashion is fickle and as the trend for patchouli trickled down to the lower classes the well-to-do lost interest in it. And then, in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, patchouli had a revival with counter-culture types who travelled the 'hippie trail' between Europe and South Asia drawn by the opium and cannabis the region was known. Patchouli hid the smell of cannabis and alcohol and over time became associated with head shops, making patchouli a love it or hate it note.

This all changed with the creation of synthetic patchouli oils some years ago. These are engineered to allow perfumers to choose what features of patchouli they wanted to remove or keep. And just like that, patchouli fragrances were back in fashion.

This in-and-out-of-fashion cycle is the inspiration for Misfit. The Arquiste website says: 'September 1877, Port of Marseille, France. In a bedroom in the City of Flesh, a Kashmiri shawl drapes decadently over the bed. Once extremely coveted, the shawls are now out of fashion with the bourgeois, their distinctive patchouli scent a victim of their downfall.' Adopted by bohemians and courtesans…With a new edge, and in the hands of misfits with style, the 'undesirable' becomes desired again.'

Misfit opens with bergamot, bright and bitter, followed by carrot seed, musky and earthy. Angelica root has a muskiness that boosts the carrot seed while adding a whiff of sweetness before French lavender shows up. On me, it's fresh, camphorous and smoky. As it settles, I get hints of patchouli from Akigalawood™, a synthetic that smells like patchouli with aspects of pepper and agarwood. 

Bulgarian rose, rich and lush, adds opulence to the juice. Ambrette extends the rose and echoes the muskiness at the opening, while balsamy resins complement the rose and the woodiness. At the base, patchouli is the star where a combination of two patchouli essences are used. The patchouli blend is earthy and a perfect counterpoint to the Akigalawood™. It's also a very uncomplicated patchouli. It's not dirty, spicy, dark or camphorous but smooth and sophisticated. This is a patchouli I have never smelled before. Woody and herbaceous cistus add those dimensions to the patchouli, while tolu balsam, sweet and balsamy, joins with creamy, sweet tonka bean to counterbalance the earthiness of the patchouli. In Misfit, everything is in perfect balance.

The drydown is refined and surprisingly seductive, making Misfit a must-have fragrance for me. Arquiste should get a prize for taking something old and making it new again. Oh, wait, they already did - Fragrance Foundation 2021 Awards Winner for Indie Fragrance of the Year: Misfit.

Misfit is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.